Vulgar Display of Power Pt 5 (Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist, 2005)

the_Exorcist_Dominion_PosterSo, Paul Schrader completed his Exorcist movie.  The studio did not like it. They hired Renny Harlan to make a whole new movie. It bombed. To try and recoup their losses, they released Paul Schrader’s film shortly after the Exorcist: the Beginning hit DVD.

So…uh…what did we get?

Well, the basic concept is the same as what we got from Renny Harlin’s film. There is a church discovered in Kenya where one should not be (in other words, it pre-dates the recorded arrival of Christianity in the region). Father Merrin, suffering a crisis of faith after a traumatic experience in World War II is the lead archeologist.

He finds himself facing off against a great evil that he will one day face again in the future.  But this is pretty much where the similarity ends. There is no twist here as Merrin finds a young man with several physical deformities.  The young man turns out to be more than they thought as Merrin and his friends attempt to save the boy and maybe even correct his weakened condition.

Dominion is definitely more thoughtful and nuanced, saving much of it’s special effects for the big exorcism battle between Merrin and the possessed young man.  the film focuses heavily on the tension between the African locals and the occupying colonizing forces overseeing the excavation of the church. The film is pretty careful to avoid presenting the tribesmen as savages.  They are certainly seen as superstitious, but not without reason. They believe the church houses evil, and the film certainly does not deny that.  Merrin deals with tragedies within the small community of more westernized and Christian Kenyans.

There is a bit during the exorcism in which it is suggested the demonic has infected the entire region with the exploding conflicts between the military forces, the tribe of the region and the small modernized village.

The film has some more gruesome moments, and the exorcism is a bit of a spectacle.  But the film is hurt by some rather weak digital effects (the digital animals look downright awful).

While Schrader clearly was going for something more thoughtful (and generally succeeds) the film is nowhere near as powerful as the first and third entries in the franchise.  Dominion is significantly better than the Exorcist: the Beginning  It is, however, not a great film, and the franchise closes with a bit of a whimper.

Vulgar Display of Power Pt 4 (the Exorcist: The Beginning, 2004)


Where was there to go, but back to the beginning? Father Merrin is on an archeological dig and having a crisis of faith.  He is brought into see a Christian Church where none should be. Within the church they find a sarcophagus. All this work seems to set free a demon that is controlling the local animal population (mainly hyenas) and seems intent on  reigning down destruction.

So…the movie is not really the interesting things.  See, Morgan Creek had hired Paul Schrader (screenwriter of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and the Last Temptation of Christ) to write and direct the film. His intent was to create a intelligent psychological thriller. He was very vocal about this and when he turned in his completed film, the studio had a heart attack.  Where was all the blood and guts?!

Schrader was fired and they brought in Renny Harlan. Harlan looked at the film, claimed it was “absolute shit” and said they would need to start from scratch. The studio signed Harlan on, almost the entire film got recast (in part because most of the cast refused to come back, the main exception being Stellan Skarsgård) and a completely knew story was created. They reshot about 90% of the film.

Renny did not, in the end, provide a superior product. The film is far more obsessed with gruesome imagrey and excessive violence than any of the previous films. It lacks any of the thoughts and nuances of the issues of faith and doubt in the first and third films. Harlan seems wholly uninterested in that.

A lot of the visuals have pretty bad digital touches and there are sequences that are meant to be dramatic that are downright comical.

The Exorcist: the Beginning was received…to say the least, poorly. Harlan gave the studio what they wanted, but he is not a director you go to for the thoughtful explorations mixed with horror that you need for the series.

And so, the studio got an idea when it was time to release the film on DVD. Why not also release Schrader’s cut?  And that is how we got…

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